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BF #5: Phil Chenier

We're getting closer to completion of this massive project we began a year ago.  Here's Phil Chenier, the #5 guy on our countdown and current color commentator for Comcast SportsNet.  LoneWiz54 is your author.

Earl Monroe, written by Truthaboutit, is next.  -PM

Sleek.  Quick.  High-jumping.  High-scoring.  Defense-minded.  Off guard. This was Phil Chenier, Bullet star guard of the seventies and one of the best all around guards during his era. Chenier was one of the NBA’s first early entry/hardship draft players, entering the NBA after averaging 16.8 ppg in his junior year at University of California in 1971. He was first team All-Pac 8 (Later to become the Pac-10) that season.


Phil’s incredible and accurate jumper was developed during his years at Cal Berkeley.  Via Tightwad Hill

Chenier, selected by the Baltimore Bullets during the hardship/early entry draft, averaged 12.3 ppg his rookie year and earned a spot on the All-Rookie Team.

Chenier was more than just a high scoring, jump shooter. He was extremely versatile, from 1973 to 1974 he averaged 5.1 rpg, 3.1 apg and blocked 67 shots, second on the team to All time great Elvin Hayes and more than any other guard in the league. This led to Chenier being constantly compared to Walt Frazier, the best all-around guard in the NBA during this time.  Chenier felt that there were major differences in the two’s games.
"He was thicker and stronger than I was and I think that I was quicker than he was," Chenier notes (Frazier was listed at 6-4, 205, while Chenier was listed at 6-3, 180). "He was very methodical in everything that he did. He would just wear you down, boom, boom. When you made a mistake he was right in position and always on balance to capitalize on it. He wasn’t a David Thompson kind of jumper. He very rarely used his left hand, but he could. He was just very basic and fundamentally sound."Chenier modestly suggests that, while they shared superficial similarities in physical appearance – height, skin color and eyes – their games were different. "I just think that we looked a lot alike," he concludes with a laugh. "He certainly had a much livelier career than I did."


This popular Chenier poster hanged in my and many Bullets fans bedrooms during the seventies.  Via

Chenier playing career for the Washington/Baltimore Bullets lasted from 1971 to 1979. He won a championship with the Bullets in 1978, though he played little that year due to a severe back injury. The back injuries lead to the early conclusion of his basketball career. Phil also briefly played for the Indiana Pacers and Golden State Warriors. Chenier was a 1972 NBA All-Rookie Team selection, averaged 17.2 points per game for his career, and was named to three NBA All-Star teams.  Though he earned a championship ring for the 1978 team, Phil felt the back injury robbed him of having a more defined role in helping the team obtain that championship and explained his frustrations.  
“It was certainly great for the organization, but I have mixed feelings about that because I was hurt during that time," Chenier recalls. "I had back problems and was unable to play for the rest of the year. So I missed out on that experience.”

A noted defensive player, Phil’s quickness, size and jumping ability, enabled him to shut down some of the greatest backcourt scorers during that NBA era and of all time. Chenier lists Pete Maravich, Earl Monroe, Walt Frazier, Nate Archibald and Jo Jo White as some of the toughest players that he faced.

Phil Chenier retired in 1981 with 9,931 career points and a career scoring average of 17.2 ppg. He has been a color commentator for the Wizards organization since the 1986 season.  To this day, I still consider Phil’s jump shot the most beautiful and fundamentally sound jumper I have ever seen.